Plymouth ships and personnel sail to Med' today
Westcountry based ships and personnel have sailed to the Mediterranean and Gulf today.
The deployment, which the Ministry of Defence insists has been a long time planned will involve a stop off at Gibraltar, currently the scene of a stand-off between the British and Spanish governments.
Thousands of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel will be taking part in the exercise, known as Cougar 13.
The flagship for the deployment is Devonport-based HMS Bulwark.
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Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander UK Task Group, said
“Cougar 13 is a bespoke opportunity to enhance the Royal Navy’s enduring core skill – the ability to operate and project power as a task group at range. In so doing, it will also remind interested domestic and international parties of the enduring utility, employability and interoperability of the Royal Navy.
“During Cougar 13 we will engage with our partner nations through a series of exercises, reinforcing our commitment and demonstrating our contribution to security in the Mediterranean and Gulf region.”
Cdre McAlpine and his staff will work alongside Brigadier Stuart Birrell (Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines) to choreograph the efforts of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors, Royal Marine Commandos and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm personnel.
Joining Bulwark will be Portsmouth-based helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and frigates HMS Montrose, from Plymouth, and HMS Westminster to provide escort duties, as well as undertake ongoing counter-piracy operations outside the exercise programme.
HMS Montrose is also due to reprise her role from Cougar 12 as the launch pad for small Royal Marines reconnaissance parties, which are sent ashore to scout the lie of the land and enemy forces taking part in the exercise.
The Royal Marines will be embarked on HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Lyme Bay.
The nation’s lead Commando Group, includes elements of 42 Commando, 30 Commando IX Group, and the Commando Logistics Regiment who will meet all the supply and medical needs.
There will also be a number of Army Commandos from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment will also deploy as part of the Lead Commando Group.
Brigadier Stuart Birrell, Commander 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, said: “Cougar ’13 provides a superb opportunity to demonstrate the capability and capacity of the Response Force Task Group and the Lead Commando Group.
“Operating in a wide variety of countries across the Mediterranean and Gulf region, the task group will engage in capacity building and defence engagement with a range of partner nations, in some truly outstanding exercises.
“A demanding and ambitious deployment, we will look forward to the challenges and opportunities that Cougar ’13 presents.”
This is the third time the deployment has taken place with its aim to demonstrate the ability to operate a highly effective maritime force anywhere in the world to protect UK interests.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, said: “Since its creation under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Response Force Task Group has demonstrated its formidable strength and readiness to respond to emerging threats worldwide through a number of operations and exercises.
“This now routine and long-planned deployment will demonstrate once again its ability to operate as a rapid reaction force on behalf of the UK and, importantly, underlines the global reach and flexibility of the modern Royal Navy.”
After a number of planned port visits in the Mediterranean, the first major exercise for the force will be Albanian Lion, in the Adriatic. Personnel will work with Albania’s armed forces, building on a similar exercise last year, with the goal to put the Lead Commando Group ashore within a high tempo scenario and sustain it as it moves inland.
The ships will then sail through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf where the focus will transfer to the series of exercises with UK allies in the Gulf region; alongside Army and RAF units.
The majority of the Task Group is due home to the UK in December, although Diligence, Westminster and Montrose are due to remain east of Suez in support of the Navy’s long-standing mission in the region to keep the sea lanes safe and secure for lawful trade.
The following assets will deploy as part of Cougar 13:
• HMS BULWARK
• HMS ILLUSTRIOUS
• RFA MOUNTS BAY
• RFA LYME BAY
• HMS MONTROSE
• HMS WESTMINSTER
• RFA FORT AUSTIN
• RFA FORT VICTORIA
• RFA CARDIGAN BAY
• RFA DILIGENCE